Eric John Eagles Swayne
Richard Corfield †
George Rolland †
Herbert Augustine Carter †
Sayyid Mohammed Abdullah Hassan
Haji Sudi †
Theatres of World War I
Sinai and Palestine
Asian and Pacific theatre
Scramble for Africa
Boer War (1880)
Chad (1898) (Kousséri)
South Africa (1899)
South Africa (1906)
South Africa (1914)
The Somaliland Campaign, also called the Anglo-Somali War or the
Dervish War, was a series of military expeditions that took place
between 1900 and 1920 in the Horn of Africa, pitting the Dervishes led
Mohammed Abdullah Hassan
Mohammed Abdullah Hassan (nicknamed the "Mad Mullah", although he
"was neither mad nor a mullah") against the British. The British
were assisted in their offensives by the Ethiopians and Italians.
First World War
First World War (1914–1918), Hassan also received aid
from the Ottomans, Germans and, for a time, from the Emperor Iyasu V
of Ethiopia. The conflict ended when the British aerially bombed the
Dervish capital of
Taleh in February 1920.
1.1 British Somaliland
1.2 Italian Somaliland
2.2 February–June 1903
2.3 January–May 1904
In the colonial period, the Somali-inhabited territories in the Horn
of Africa were collectively referred to as "Somaliland".
Main article: British Somaliland
Although nominally part of the Ottoman Empire, Yemen and the sahil
(including Zeila) came progressively under the control of Muhammad
Ali, ruler of Egypt, between 1821 and 1841. After the Egyptians
withdrew from the Yemeni seaboard in 1841, Haj Ali Shermerki, a
successful and ambitious Somali merchant, purchased from them
executive rights over Zeila. Shermerki's governorship had an instant
effect on the city, as he manoeuvred to monopolize as much of the
regional trade as possible, with his sights set as far as
the Ogaden. Shermerki was later succeeded as Governor of
Abu Bakr Pasha, a local Afar statesman.
In 1874–75, the Egyptians obtained a firman from the Ottomans by
which they secured claims over the city. At the same time, the
Egyptians received British recognition of their nominal jurisdiction
as far east as Cape Guardafui. In actuality, however,
little authority over the interior and their period of rule on the
coast was brief, lasting only a few years (1870–84).
British Somaliland protectorate was subsequently established in
the late 1880s, after the ruling Somali authorities signed a series of
protection treaties granting the British access to their territories
on the northwestern coast. Among the Somali signatories were the
Gadabuursi (1884), Habar Awal (1884 and 1886), and Warsangali.
When the Egyptian garrison in
Harar was eventually evacuated in 1885,
Zeila became caught up in the competition between the Tadjoura-based
French and the British for control of the strategic Gulf of Aden
littoral. By the end of 1885, the two powers were on the brink of
armed confrontation, but opted instead to turn negotiations. They
later signed a convention on 1 February 1888 defining the border
French Somaliland and British Somaliland.
Main article: Italian Somaliland
One of the forts of the
Majeerteen Sultanate in Hafun
Majeerteen Sultanate within the northeastern part of the Somali
territories was established in the mid-18th century and rose to
prominence the following century, under the reign of the resourceful
Boqor (King) Osman Mahamuud.
In late December 1888, Yusuf Ali Kenadid, the founder and first ruler
of the Sultanate of Hobyo, requested Italian protection, and a treaty
to that effect was signed in February 1889, making
Hobyo an Italian
protectorate. In April, Yusuf's uncle and rival, Boqor Osman,
requested a protectorate from the Italians and was granted it. Both
Boqor Osman and Sultan Kenadid had entered into the protectorate
treaties to advance their own expansionist goals, with Sultan Kenadid
looking to use Italy's support in his ongoing power struggle with
Boqor Osman over the Majeerteen Sultanate, as well as in a separate
conflict with the
Sultan of Zanzibar
Sultan of Zanzibar over an area to the north of
Warsheikh. In signing the agreements, the rulers also hoped to exploit
the rival objectives of the European imperial powers so as to more
effectively assure the continued independence of their territories.
The terms of each treaty specified that Italy was to steer clear of
any interference in the sultanates' respective administrations.
In return for Italian arms and an annual subsidy, the Sultans conceded
to a minimum of oversight and economic concessions. The Italians
also agreed to dispatch a few ambassadors to promote both the
sultanates' and their own interests. The new protectorates were
thereafter managed by
Vincenzo Filonardi through a chartered
company. An Anglo-Italian border protocol was later signed on 5 May
1894, followed by an agreement in 1906 between Cavalier Pestalozza and
General Swaine acknowledging that Baran fell under the Majeerteen
The first offensive campaign was led by Hassan against Ethiopian
Jijiga in March 1900. The Ethiopian general Gerazmatch
Bante reportedly repulsed the attack and inflicted great losses on the
Dervishes, although the British vice-consul at
Harar claimed the
Ethiopians out of fear armed children with rifles to inflate the size
of their forces. Hassan seized control of the
Ogaden but did not
attack Harar. Instead, he raided the non-Dervish
Qadariyyah clans for
their camels and arms.
In 1901, the British joined with the Ethiopians and attacked the
Dervishes with a force 17,000 strong. Hassan was driven across the
border into the Majeerteen Sultanate, which had been incorporated into
the Italian protectorate. The Ethiopians failed to get a hold on
Ogaden and the British were eventually forced to retreat,
having accomplished none of their goals. In this campaign, "borders
were ignored by both British and Somali."
Cavalry and fort belonging to the Sultanate of Hobyo
The British became convinced of their need of Italian assistance, but
memories of the disastrous
Battle of Adowa
Battle of Adowa inhibited any Italian
fervour for action in the Horn of Africa. In 1903, the Italian Foreign
Ministry permitted the British to land forces at
Hobyo (Obbia). An
Italian naval commander off
Hobyo feared "that the expedition will end
in a fiasco; the Mad Mullah will become a myth for the British, who
will never come across him, and a serious worry for ... our sphere of
The relationship between
Hobyo and Italy soured when Sultan Kenadid
refused the Italians' proposal to allow British troops to disembark in
his Sultanate so that they might then pursue their battle against
Hassan's Dervish forces. Viewed as too much of a threat by the
Italians, Kenadid was exiled first to the British-controlled Aden
Protectorate, and then to Italian Eritrea, as was his son Ali Yusuf,
the heir apparent to his throne. In May, the British Foreign
Office realised the error, and had Kenadid's son appointed regent,
just in time to forestall an attack in
Mudug by the Sultan's army.
The expedition ended in failure soon after. Hassan defeated a British
detachment near Gumburru and then another near Daratoleh. With
1,200–1,500 rifles, 4,000 ponies and some spearmen, he occupied the
Nugal Valley from Halin in the British protectorate to Ilig (or Illig)
on the Italian-held coast. The main British force near Galad (Galadi)
under General William Manning retreated north along the line
Bohotleh–Burao–Sheekh. This "old-established line" had already
been breached by Hassan when he invaded the Nugal. By the end of
June, the withdrawal was complete.
British camel troopers in 1913, between
Odweyne in British
After the failure of General Manning's offensive, General Charles
Egerton was entrusted with a response. Following extensive
preparations, he united his field force at Bacaadweeyn (Badwein) on 9
January 1904 and defeated Hassan at Jidballi the next day. The British
and their allies from
Hobyo harassed Hassan along his retreat, and he
lost many of his camels and livestock throughout February.
In early March, the second phase of operations began. The Ethiopians
advanced as far as Gerlogubi, but turned back in early April. The
Italian Navy bombarded Ilig in the winter to no effect. On 16 April,
some ships of the
East Indies Station
East Indies Station under Rear Admiral George
Berbera to bombard Ilig in cooperation with an
advance overland. The capture of Ilig was effected on 21 April,
the British losing 3 men killed and 11 wounded, and the Dervishes 58
killed and 14 wounded. The naval detachment which had fought the
battle remained ashore for four days, assisted by an Italian naval
detachment that arrived on 22 April. Control of Ilig was finally
relinquished to Ali Yusuf of Hobyo. Having defeated his forces in
the field and forced his retreat, the British "offered the Mullah safe
conduct into permanent exile at Mecca"; Hassan did not reply.
Main article: Somaliland campaign (1920)
Following the end of World War I, British troops once again turned
their attention to the disturbances in British Somaliland. The
Dervishes had previously defeated British forces at the Battle of Dul
Madoba in 1913. Four subsequent British expeditions against Hassan and
his soldiers had also failed.
In 1920, British forces launched a final campaign against Hassan's
Dervishes. Although the majority of the combat took place in January
of the year, British troops had begun preparations for the assault as
early as November 1919. The British forces were led by the Royal Air
Force and the ground component included the Somaliland Camel Corps.
After three weeks of battle, the Dervishes were finally defeated,
bringing an effective end to their 20-year resistance.
^ Nicolle (1997), 5.
^ a b Clifford (1936), 289
^ Abir (1968), 18.
^ a b c Lewis (2002), 43, 49.
^ Lewis (1999), 19.
^ Laitin (1977), 8.
^ Ravenstein (1894), 56–58.
^ Metz (1993), 10.
^ a b c Hess (1964), 416–17.
^ a b c d Issa-Salwe (1996), 34–35.
^ a b c Hess (1964), 420.
^ Commander of the torpedo-gunboat Caprera on 14 March, quoted in Hess
^ Sheik-ʻAbdi (1993), 129
^ a b Hess (1964), 421.
^ Cunliffe-Owen (1905), 169.
^ Cunliffe-Owen (1905), 175–76.
^ Cunliffe-Owen (1905), 178.
^ Cunliffe-Owen (1905), 179–82 ("Appendix A").
^ a b Baker (2003), 161–62.
Clifford, E. H. M. (1936). "The British Somaliland–Ethiopia
Boundary." The Geographical Journal 87 (4): 289–302.
Cunliffe-Owen, Frederick. (1905). "The Somaliland Operations: June,
1903, to May, 1904." Royal United Service Institution Journal 49 (1):
Galbraith, John S. (1970). "Italy, the British East Africa Company,
and the Benadir Coast, 1888–1893." The Journal of Modern History 42
Gray, Randal. (1970). "Bombing the ‘Mad Mullah’ – 1920." Royal
United Service Institution Journal 25 (4): 41–47.
Hess, Robert L. (1964). "The ‘Mad Mullah’ and Northern Somalia."
The Journal of African History 5 (3): 415–33.
Latham Brown, D. J. (1956). "The Ethiopia–Somaliland Frontier
Dispute." The International and Comparative Law Quarterly 5 (2):
Ravenstein, E. G. (1894). "The Recent Territorial Arrangements in
Africa." The Geographical Journal 4 (1): 54–58.
Abir, Mordechai (1968). Ethiopia: The Era of the Princes — The
Challenge of Islam and Re-unification of the Christian Empire,
Baker, Anne (2003). From Biplane to Spitfire. Pen and Sword Books.
Cassanelli, Lee V. (1982). The Shaping of Somali Society:
Reconstructing the History of a Pastoral People, 1600–1900.
Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.
Issa-Salwe, Abdisalam M. (1996). The Collapse of the Somali State: The
Impact of the Colonial Legacy. London: Haan Associates.
Laitin, David D. (1977). Politics, Language, and Thought: The Somali
Experience. University of Chicago Press.
Lewis, I. M. (2002). A Modern History of the Somali (4th ed.). Oxford:
Lewis, I. M. (1999). A Pastoral Democracy: A Study of Pastoralism and
Politics Among the Northern Somali of the Horn of Africa. Oxford:
James Currey. ISBN 0852552807.
Metz, Helen Chapin (1993). Somalia: A Country Study. The
Nicolle, David (1997). The Italian Invasion of Abyssinia, 1935–36.
Omissi, David E. (1990). Air Power and Colonial Control: The Royal Air
Force, 1919–1939. New York: Manchester University Press.
pp. 14–15. ISBN 0719029600.
Sheik-ʻAbdi, ʻAbdi ʻAbdulqadir (1993). Divine Madness: Moḥammed
ʻAbdulle Ḥassan (1856–1920). Zed Books.
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